Each year before Thanksgiving dinner, my family has a tradition of going around the table and sharing one thing we’ve been grateful for in the past year. What strikes me every year is that the things that are shared, year after year, have to do with support, love, connection, faith, and family. Even the youngest at the table share their gratitude for their mommy and daddy, or their dog, or baby brother. I can’t remember a single time when someone led with being grateful for more stuff or for their favorite TV show.
This always makes me think about how gratitude shows up in my everyday life. If, when I am really serious about being grateful, the things that come up are my family, my health, and the connections I have, why do I spend so much of my time focused on other things?
I am constantly worried about whether or not I am going to get to attend the next fun event, about whose turn it is to do the dishes, about money, or about whether someone is taking advantage of me.
I allow myself to be angry or worried over trivial things, which crowds out the joy that is there for the taking if I just stop and notice it. I’ve found that when I take a moment to examine what is good in my life, the things that aren’t so great, or that make me frustrated and worn out, tend to not feel like such a big deal. It is really easy to take those good things for granted, especially when they are consistent and dependable, but those are precisely the things I would miss most if they were suddenly absent.
Practicing gratitude on a (somewhat) regular basis helps to ground me and refocus on what is truly important, and let go of the angst over the not-so-important things.
So, this year, when it is my turn to share what I’m grateful for, I will list the love of my family, the opportunity for rewarding work, and my faith. Because at the end of the day, all the other stuff is just noise.
Written By: Molly Halbrooks, LAMFT